Qwasar and Cañada College Announce Low-Cost Coding Bootcamp – Government Technology

Qwasar and Cañada College Announce Low-Cost Coding Bootcamp

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Qwasar and Cañada College at Menlo Park are offering a nine-month training program for software developers, with help from grant funding to achieve a low enough price point to draw applicants from low-income communities.

Two people looking at a computer screen.
According to a report from the nonprofit trade association CompTIA, there were 3.9 million postings for tech-related jobs in the U.S. last year, with over 20 percent of those in emerging IT careers as industries have become increasingly reliant upon technology for day-to-day operations. But within this growing demand for IT talent, most research indicates that women and non-white workers remain largely boxed out of tech jobs.

To help address some of these shortfalls, the digital training platform Qwasar Silicon Valley recently partnered with Cañada College at Menlo Park to launch a full-stack developer training program with the goal of recruiting low-income and minority students. According to a blog post on the company’s website, the virtual, nine-month certification program is set to begin in August.

Qwasar co-founder Jennifer Robertson said registration costs $99, in contrast with similar coding programs that are shorter and cost upward of $15,000, making them inaccessible to many.

“With the pandemic, we saw a big push for skill-based training that was accessible online, didn’t cost an arm and a leg, and that wasn’t a four-year degree,” she said. “We saw an opportunity to partner with local community colleges, particularly in the Bay Area, because it’s a tech-focused program.”

The training will feature structured peer code reviews, live coding sessions, collaboration workshops and pair programming to build skills in fields such as data science, cloud computing, app development, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Applicants must have a basic understanding of coding and web technologies, and the aim is to qualify them for junior positions as full-stack developers, or software designers who can work on both the front-end and back-end aspects of applications. The program will start with 25 slots, with a wait list or other cohorts possible if demand warrants.

Robertson said most accelerated tech programs lack the depth of technical training required by Bay Area tech companies. She said Qwasar and Cañada College’s training course will prepare students for technical interviews and building relationships with potential employers.

“Employers have sort of a checklist of the skills they want,” Robertson said. “You need to have a strong foundation in order to be able to pass the interview and to do well, and that’s what shorter programs don’t cover.

“We look at what the trends are for job descriptions in a particular area and what they’re looking for, and there are a lot of commonalities,” she added.

Julian Branch, director of workforce development at Cañada College, said one of the main goals of the program is to help “level the playing field” for low-income and minority students. According to Branch, the initiative was made possible through the help of grant funding from the city of Menlo Park.

“The role of community colleges is to act as a bridge between the community and making sure everyone has the opportunity to get a career that they choose to,” Branch said. “For several organizations and industries, the barriers [for tech jobs] are very high.”

Qwasar CEO Kwame Yamgnane said the training offered through the public-private partnership will be among the first of its kind in the country.

“We hope this endeavor will help move the needle on diversity in tech by addressing the tech talent pipeline problems while providing skills-based training options that are affordable,” Yamgnane said in a public statement. “We need more of these programs across the U.S.”

Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.

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